OPINION: Spotify and The Joe Rogan Experience’ing’ some issues


Tyler Letcher

Joe Rogan and his home platform, Spotify. (Tyler Letcher, WikiMedia, ccnull.de [creative commons])

Opinions expressed in the Op/Ed section of The Knight Crier are not necessarily reflective of the views of the entire staff of the KC.

When you think of music, you may very well think of streaming giant Spotify, featuring both free and paid offerings. Right now, however, many are abandoning their memberships for the platform due to its ownership of the controversial podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience. But what is really going on here, and what is causing Spotify to stick to their guns, despite the mass market loss for one podcast host?

Well, for starters, Joe Rogan got his start in Boston in the comedy and acting scene in the late 80’s, leading to a short acting career with Disney in the 90s. In the late 90’s, he began working with the UFC as a commentator and broadcaster, and hasn’t looked back since. He launched his Joe Rogan Experience podcast in 2009, which has likely been his most successful venue to date, as its distribution rights were purchased by Spotify for $100 million in 2020.

Topics covered on his podcasts include, but are not limited to, religion, politics, and more recently, public health, which is what has gotten him into hot water. Rogan has often encouraged young people to not get vaccinated against Covid, heavily encouraged the use of unapproved Covid treatments such as Ivermectin, and invited doctors such as Dr. Robert Malone and Dr. Peter McCollough, who are vaccine skeptics, making people raise eyebrows as to why Spotify allows these episodes to be on their platform.

Earlier in the year, actual doctors who are trying to help people survive came together and wrote an open letter to Spotify, asking them to take action against the podcast. Once this was ignored, it was time for customers, and Spotify’s own employees and artists, to take action themselves.

Music legend Neil Young has written to Spotify, giving them an ultimatum between his content and Joe Rogan’s, with the company siding with Rogan. Joni Mitchell and Nils Lofgren followed suit, removing their music from the platform in protest. So, Spotify is siding with one controversial UFC commentator and podcast host, spreading deadly Covid-19 misinformation over timeless music legends?

It’s not just the musicians that have begun to boycott Spotify either. Customers have begun to cancel their paid – and even free – subscriptions in droves, leading Spotify’s Customer Support Page to go down temporarily due to the influx of traffic through Friday and Saturday of this past week. At times, the only way that people could cancel their subscriptions were to go to their banks or payment services and state that Spotify wasn’t letting them cancel their service, leading banks to cut off payment.

All of this outrage left Spotify more than $2 billion down in market value, with its stock plummeting day by day. In response, Spotify’s CEO Daniel Ek has stated that the platform will begin to add “advisories” to podcasts and content that discusses Covid and other public health topics, linking to a portal giving the truth of the matter from real, trusted health experts. Rogan himself responded to this, saying, “I’m not trying to promote misinformation, I’m not trying to be controversial. I’ve never tried to do anything with this podcast other than to just talk to people.”

But when you look at his history, you’d see that this has been proven otherwise. Promoting misinformation is quite literally defined as “false information that is spread, regardless of intent to mislead”. It’s a pretty fair bet that Rogan, as a podcast host, being unvaccinated in a pandemic where doctors are encouraging people to get vaccinated, and sewing mistrust and lies into his listeners, telling them to not get the vaccine either, would be defined as spreading misinformation.

Spotify’s actions aren’t enough, however. Adding a link to a portal to a podcast that people listen to, knowing of the misinformation, won’t make much of a difference, if any, that they believe it will. Or maybe they don’t believe it will make any difference, and are doing it to save face. Any way it comes out, they still have artists, customers, and their own employees to answer to for the dangerous spread of this misinformation. And if two or three artists leaving the platform won’t change their minds, who knows how many it will take to do so.